The latest episode of Bad Books for Bad People features the 1953 occult adventure novel To The Devil a Daughter by British pulp author Dennis Wheatley. Come for the promise of a devil-possessed young lady, stay for the heroic interior decorator and many, many stops for cocktails and hearty meals! Charmingly stuffy, undeniably weird, and quite ludicrous indeed, this yarn tracks a mystery author and her interior decorator son who get enmeshed in an occult conspiracy when they delve too deeply into the life of mysterious young lady who becomes their neighbor on the French Riviera.
We’re joined by Kristen Korvette, the dynamic and wonderful founder and editor of Slutist, who reads a passage about black magic, gross monsters, and … Stalin.
Can you believe I managed to avoid the books of V.C. Andrews for my entire life? For whatever reason (prejudice against popular girls, a love of gay vampires, and/or getting into general Goth kid mischief), it took me to this advanced age to be coerced into checking out My Sweet Audrina, Andrews’ horrifyingly claustrophobic tale of womanly trauma.
Jack and I tackle this title on the latest episode of our podcast, Bad Books for Bad People, where we delve into what makes this book so effective as well as why on earth tween girls went bonkers for these gothic novels.
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About the episode:
The potboiler Gothics of V.C. Andrews were beloved by adult women… and their tween daughters. Both Jack and Kate are new to the author’s infamous tales of female woe, and they discuss what it’s like to read her work for the first time during this discussion of Andrews’ 1982 novel My Sweet Audrina. This claustrophobic tale of a girl raised with family secrets in the shadow of her dead sister proves to be a surprisingly traumatic experience for Kate who is forced to confront some of her darkest fears, including the horrors of inheriting someone else’s kids.
Here to read an especially sensational passage from the book is Wendy Mays, hostess of Pet Cinematary, the podcast dedicated to taking a deeper look at the role of animals in film. This is her first time reading the work of V.C. Andrews as well, and it turned out to be a much more difficult task than your hosts imagined to find a woman unfamiliar with these macabre little novels.
How does the domestic nightmare world of My Sweet Audrina effect your hosts? Did V.C. Andrews’ life experiences add to the intensity of her stories? What were your hosts reading as tweens? Why did tween girls love these depressing forays into mental illness and isolation so much? Find out all this and more on this episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
Morbid Fantasies is a richly illustrated reader’s guide to Gothic literature, guiding fans both old and new through the ever-changing landscape of this most ghoulish of genres. In its pages, scholar Jack Shear covers the history, key themes, and major books in the Gothic movement from its inception through the current day. It’s a love letter to this often misunderstood and under-appreciated form of entertainment, hand-bound and designed by Tenebrous Kate with featured illustrations by Dana Glover, Becky Munich, and Carisa Swenson.
We’re back with another episode of Bad Books for Bad People, in which Jack Guignol and I discuss Philip José Farmer’s one-two punch of Image of the Beast and Blown. These XXX science fiction/horror novels are some of the most bonkers books to come out of the already-bonkers 1960s. I described these books as “like the monster mash version of Bataille’s ‘Story of the Eye,'” but there’s an awful lot more going on here. Explicit sex, Lord Byron, aliens, and… Well, you’ll just have to listen to the podcast to find out the rest.
We got our most squeamish friend, man of mystery Baron XIII, to read an especially grotesque segment of Image of the Beast. He issues a seven-day drawing challenge in exchange for being emotionally tortured WARNING: Do not drink every time I say “werepig” or “vagina” or you will be one sloppy human being by the end of this podcast.
It’s alive! The first episode of Bad Books for Bad People, my podcast with my long-time friend and collaborator, Jack Guignol, is available for your listening pleasure. We discuss a truly bonkers book, Alistair Rennie’s BleakWarrior, which was was dubbed by one reviewer as “black metal new weird.” Jack thinks it’s more like a SoulCalibur porno directed by Jodorowsky. Who’s right? What other unlikely comparisons will we come up with? Will guest reader Degtyarov of the ultra-esoteric blog and zine Black Ivory Tower be able to hold it together through a passage from the book that involves a whole lot of grotesque violence? Tune in and find out!
In “bucket list” news, I spoke to two of my favorite intellects of the American underground in February. Feral House founder Adam Parfrey chatted with me about his history in publishing, his instincts about what makes a compelling book, and how the current social climate might be creating the most frightening atmosphere yet for advocates of free speech. Read the interview on Heathen Harvest here.
One of the most important books in the development of my personal aesthetic is Mel Gordon’s Voluptuous Panic, an exploration of sex culture in Weimar Berlin. It’s a book I love so much that I’ve gifted copies to friends and have even had to replace my own much-loved, dog-eared copy. Imagine my delight when Mel agreed to sit down over drinks with me and talk about his incredibly colorful life and scholarship over the course of four dishy hours. Read the interview on Heathen Harvest here.
March’s Great Moment in Historical Sluttery concerns the career of Aphra Behn, Restoration Era author and spy. When widowhood left her facing debtor’s prison, Aphra was able to find employment as a playwright for the two leading theaters in England, becoming one of the first women to financially support herself through her writing. Read about Aphra Behn on Slutist.
Bryan Proteau, aka Cloven Hoov, is another artist I’ve admired from afar for quite some time. His stunning linework and mystical imagery consistently blow me away. Read more about the work of this talented, thoughtful individual here: Alchemical Linework: The Art of Bryan Proteau.
Feral House’s sister imprint, Process Media, continues to delight with their eclectic catalog that includes historical reprints, how-to books, music overviews. There was pretty much a zero percent chance I wasn’t going to be thrilled with their most recent title, Priestess of Morphine: The Lost Writings of Marie-Madeleine in the Time of Nazis, which covers the poetry and prose of the forgotten bisexual star of Wilhelminian and Weimar Germany. It’s like they plumbed my subconscious to come up with that title, for God’s sake! Read my full review on Heathen Harvest.
In other articles relating to notable queer women of history, I wrote about Golden Age Hollywood screen goddess Alla Nazimova for February’s Great Moment in Historical Sluttery at Slutist. More than just extravagant and beautiful, Nazimova was an accomplished talent who helped elevate other notable women. Oh, and he probably slept with both of Rudolph Valentino’s wives, if you want to get into the salacious stuff (which we all know you do). Read the article here: Alla Nazimova, Silver Screen Sappho.
I continue my exploration of heavy metal comics in my Stygian Imagery column at Nine Circles. This month, I highly recommend that readers check out Black Metalwritten by Rick Spears and Chuck BB. Don’t be a knucklehead like me and avoid it just because it’s about teens–it’s really great. Read my full review, in which I quote Venom lyrics to try to make some kind of point, somehow: Stygian Imagery: Black Metal by Rick Spears and Chuck BB.
2016 has certainly started with a bang, and February holds some really exciting developments that I’m looking forward to sharing. For those of you looking for a handy run-down of what I’ve been up to, you’re in luck!
January’s installment of Great Moments in Historical Sluttery, my monthly column at Slutist, is probably one of my favorites so far. Roman Empress Messalina is a fascinating figure whose scandalous reputation continues to titillate audiences looking for tales of sexy intrigue. Short of the whole “getting executed for treason” thing, it’s pretty amazing to think that one’s insatiable sexual appetites would continue to be a topic of conversation two thousand years after one’s death. May we all be lucky enough to be the namesake of a German strip club. Read the article here.
On a completely different but also-controversial note, I reviewed Feral House’s spicy new release, The White Nationalist Skinhead Movement: UK & USA 1979-1993 for Heathen Harvest. SPOILER: Many people are punched; little is ultimately accomplished. This was a challenging read from a very different perspective than the majority of writing on the subject, though its 600-plus-page run length makes it a book geared towards the VERY curious. Of all of the exhaustive details, I think my favorite anecdote was the fact that Ian Stewart of Skrewdriver was used as a bogeyman to convince his friends’ kids to behave themselves.
Lastly, but absolutely not leastly, my Art Coven sisters Becky Munich and S. Elizabeth brought together amazing artists and authors for their just-released Occult Activity Book and invited me to participate. If you’ve ever wanted Elizabeth Bathory paper dolls and Suspiria color-in pages, then boy howdy it is your lucky day! I’ve got my filthy hands on a copy of this and it is a creepy, cheeky good time. Purchase your copy here!
It’s true, friends–gone are the days when I’m blogging about every single thing I’ve watched. Your devastation resonates directly into my black, patent-leather heart, but don’t despair. My graphomania is now dispersed across the web on various *other* platforms.
At Heathen Harvest, I had an opportunity to chat with musician and composer Miro Snejdr, probably best known for his work with Death in June. Miro is one of the most organically gifted individuals I’ve spoken with, and the sort of person who thinks that it’s “boring” to be able to sit at a piano and create music as if touched by the hand of a higher power. The Magic Hand of Chance: An Interview with Miro Snejdr
Also at Heathen Harvest, I reviewed Horizontal Collaboration, the latest book by my favorite historian, the amazing Mel Gordon. His book on Weimar Berlin, Voluptuous Panic, has had a tremendous impact on my life, and Horizontal Collaboration is a worthy successor. Horizontal Collaboration: The Erotic World of Paris, 1920-1946
In addition to publishing two very different titles over the past month via my micro-publishing imprint Heretical Sexts, I’ve also been blogging for two excellent websites that have been kind enough to say “yes” when I pitch them ideas like “GIFs about silent movies” or “essays about female historical figures with a sexy twist.”
Over at Slutist, you can read my latest installment of Great Moments in Historical Sluttery features Mary Shelley. For those of you who think of Mary Shelley only in terms of being the author of “Frankenstein” (no mean feat, mind you), prepare your brains to learn that she was also a prolific author and free thinker who was responsible for elevating her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, to the status of literary royalty after his untimely death. There’s also some stuff in there about graveside sex, because lurid historical details delight me to no end.
I’ve also started writing for Dirge Magazine, where I’ll be contributing a couple of posts a month on signature “lurid, weird, and fantastique” topics. Dirge is a great resource for articles on what I like to think of as Pan-Spooky-ist topics: movies, music, art, writing, and general creepy-sexiness.
I also made a list of seven songs inspired by dark classics of literature and graciously provided links to where folks can read these wonderful books, because I am only capable of loving old, anachronistic things. A lot of people read that article, which is pretty cool. I hope they all listened to Toto Coelo’s “Dracula’s Tango” all the way through (I still think that song is woefully under-appreciated). Then again, if they just played The Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” over and over again, I am comfortable with that outcome as well.